Top 5 Differences between a Physiotherapist and Chiropractor
A physiotherapist is a healthcare professional who specialises in the treatment and management of a wide variety of conditions affecting the physical function of the body. They are governed by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) and typically earn a three-year bachelor's degree, or a two-year master's degree. Physiotherapists use manual therapy, exercises, and sometimes equipment such as ultrasound or shockwave to assist patients in recovering from injury, surgery, or managing chronic conditions. They frequently work for the National Health Service (NHS) and receive referrals from GPs and consultants, but they can also work in private practice. Physiotherapists are often synonymous with sports medicine, and most professional sports teams will have a physio as part of their team. Their focus is on rehabilitation and improving a patient's ability to perform tasks at home and at work, and they frequently teach patients home exercises to manage their condition.
A chiropractor in the UK is a healthcare professional who specialises in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mechanical disorders of the musculoskeletal system, with a particular emphasis on the spine. They are regulated by the General Chiropractic Council (GCC) and must complete a four to five-year degree program. Chiropractors use a range of techniques to reduce pain, improve function, and increase mobility, including hands-on manipulation of the spine. They work in private practice and patients can self-refer for treatment. While they treat a range of conditions, they are perhaps best known for their work treating back and neck pain. Chiropractors also provide advice on exercise, diet, and lifestyle, and offer rehabilitation programmes to help prevent recurring injuries.
Let’s look at five key differences:
Education and Training: In the UK, chiropractors are trained in a four or five-year degree program, which includes a lot of hands-on clinical experience. They do award themselves the title of Doctor of Chiropractic, although they are not a medical doctor. On the other hand, physiotherapists typically complete a three-year undergraduate Batchelors degree. In some cases, physiotherapists can also become qualified by completing a two-year master's degree. However, they would first have needed to have an undergraduate degree in a related science or sports rehabilitation.
Treatment Approach: Chiropractors primarily use hands-on spinal manipulation and other alternative treatments. Physiotherapists tend to focus more on the specific area of injury or dysfunction and often use exercise-based rehabilitation as a primary treatment method. Physiotherapists often use a combination of rehabilitation, manual therapy, exercises, and equipment such as ultrasound, LASER and shockwave.
Sessions: Chiropractic sessions tend to be quite short. It is quite common to have a simple thrust, to “re-align” a joint or subluxation, and that’s the session finished. This means that often chiropractors will want to see you more regularly, and over a longer period of time, with strong emphasis on purchasing treatment packages of 10 or 20 sessions in advance. Chiropractors tend to want to see you for maintenance adjustments. Physiotherapists typically prefer to rehabilitate and that means seeing you less often, but with more emphasis on you healing yourself.
Referrals: Physiotherapists often work within the NHS and GP and consultant referrals represent a high number of referrals to a physio clinic. Chiropractors often work in private practice and patients can self-refer. They tend to be recommended less by GPs in the UK, likely because chiropractors are rarely in the NHS, and are not classed as allied healthcare practitioners.
Research Base: Physiotherapy has a larger body of research supporting its practices, due in part to its longer history and wider scope. Chiropractic, and especially manipulation/adjustments, are less well supported by research. There are significant questions asking if manipulation brings long term benefits, or simply creates long-term dependency.
The reader should be aware that there are a lot of benefits in both professions. They are both natural, holistic, and look at the body’s way to help healing. Like any profession you can get the good, the bad and the risky, so being recommended somewhere is key. Go to a clinic with a good reputation for safe and effective treatment.
If you are a patient, in pain suffering with acute or chronic pain, please call us to discuss your case further. Surrey Physio have an amazing team of therapists to help you recover from pain, but also to achieve top performance. Call us on 0208 685 6930 or click the link at the top to book online.)